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Monday, November 23, 2009

The Devil's Delusion. Atheism and Its Scientific Pretentions/ Book Review, J. Colannino

Link to book here



Everyone knows that scientists engage in a dispassionate republic of ideas where truth holds sway and raw intellect leads to a benevolent atheism. Of course, that's a load of crap; but it has been the party line for some decades now. Thank heaven for David Berlinski who refreshingly exposes both scientists and science for who and what they are.

Berlinski is a secular Jew and agnostic who knows science as it really is. He has taught university level math, philosophy, and English. His post doc was at Columbia in mathematics and molecular genetics. American born, he speaks fluent English, German, and French. He is an amazing intellect. He has made a career of outing naked emperors. Next to Melville, Berlinski's prose is about the best in print. Witness: "While science has nothing of value to say on the great and aching questions of life, death, love, and meaning, what the religious traditions of mankind have said forms a coherent body of thought" (page xvi). "[P]hysical theories having said nothing about God, say nothing about right or wrong, good or bad. [T]he physical sciences offer a grossly inadequate view of reality" (p 35). " 'We feel' Wittgenstein wrote, 'that even when all possible scientific questions have been answered, the problems of of life remain completely untouched ' " (p 151).

Here's another zinger.

"For scientists persuaded that there is no God, there is no finer pleasure than recounting the history of religious brutality and persecution" (p 19). [but] "What Hitler did not believe and what Stalin did
not believe and what Mao did not believe and what the SS did not believe and what the Gestapo did not believe and what the NKVD did not believe and what the commissars, functionaries, swaggering executioners, Nazi doctors, Communist Party theoreticians, intellectuals, Brown Shirts, Black Shirts, gauleiters, and a thousand party hacks did not believe was that God was watching what they were doing" (p 26).

Hammering away at the incoherency of what passes for quantum cosmology, Darwinian evolution, the scientific method, and the rubbish comprising so much of big science, Berlinski tells it like it is: "No less than the doctrines of religious belief, the doctrines of quantum cosmology are what they seem: biased, partial, inconclusive, and largely in the service of passionate but unexamined conviction" (p 104). "Quantum cosmology is a branch of mathematical metaphysics" (p 107). "If the mystification induced by its modest mathematics were removed from the subject, what remains would not appear appreciably different in kind from various creation myths in which the origin of the universe is attributed to sexual congress between primordial deities" (p 108). "The claim that the human mind is the product of evolution is not unassailable fact. It is barely coherent. The idea that man was created in the image of God remains what it has always been: And that is the instinctive default of the human race" (p 179).

The point is not anti-intellectualism. Far from it. The point is that intellect is precisely what has been abandoned. "Did you imagine that science was a disinterested pursuit of truth? Well, you were wrong" (p 112).

Berlinski rightly decries "Evidence so compelling that no part of it need be produced" (p 128). Although he is here referencing the Anthropic Principle, his comment would just as easily apply to global warming or junk "science" of any sort. In true science, one man with the truth is a majority. In junk science, a consensus of the Illuminati supersedes reason. Or, as Berlinski puts it "The Landscape and the Anthropic Principle represent the ascendancy of moral relativism in physical thought" (p 134).

Berlinski ends his tome with a refreshingly frank discussion of Darwinian evolution: "Within the English speaking world, Darwin's theory of evolution remains the only scientific theory to be widely championed by the scientific community and widely disbelieved by everyone else" (p 186). "Suspicious about Darwin's theory arise for two reasons. The first: the theory makes little sense. The second: it is supported by little evidence" (p 187). "If Darwin's theory of evolution has little to contribute to the content of the sciences, it has much to offer their ideology. It serves as the creation myth of our time, assigning properties to nature previously assigned to God. It thus demands an especially ardent form of advocacy" (pp 190, 191).

One might think that as a researcher and engineer, I would be appalled at Berlinski's deft dismemberment of the modern scientific edifice. On the contrary, I am refreshed. Theists invented science -- sorry for any embarrassment this might cause -- but it was moral relativists who turned it into a religion. It is time to take science back. The Devil's delusion is a powerful step in the right direction.

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